Create a Gift-giving Spreadsheet. AND No, I’m Not Joking!

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Have any of the following ever happened to you?

  1. You leave holiday shopping until the last minute
  2. You forget what you bought for a particular someone last year
  3. Did you even GIVE a gift to that person last year?
  4. You spend too much money on gifts
  5. All of the above?

I have the cure for all these problems!  A spreadsheet!!  Of course, if you happen to not approach spreadsheets with a fan-girl like obsessiveness, make a regular word-processing document or even a handwritten list.

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to keep track of the gifts you buy.  Here are eight reasons why you should adopt this habit:

  • Never again will you feel the pang of embarrassment when you realize you gave the same gift as last year to someone.
  • You can start early – choose timing that works for you. I prefer to pull my list out around September to start eyeballing the holiday season.  Having advanced attention to the project keeps my brain from shutting down with holiday paralysis.
  • Treat your gift making or buying with military-like precision. Never again will you be shopping on Christmas Eve for 30 gifts.  Unless you LIKE to the rush and craziness of Christmas Eve shopping.
  • By tracking all the gifts you give and the cost to purchase or produce them, you can either stick to a budget or actively work to reduce the cost of your holidays each year.
  • I find that keeping a list helps me to reevaluate the recipients of my gifts each year. Cutting down the number of people I feel compelled to provide gifts for each year makes my simplicity-loving heart sing (but you may feel otherwise!)  At a minimum, it helps reduce mindless giving.
  • Relatedly, as you are eliminating people who aren’t really in your life anymore (for example, teachers my daughter had last year that she doesn’t this year) will also help you identify new recipients who deserve to be on your list.
  • If you use a spreadsheet and you include your gift budget – and then actual expenditures – the spreadsheet can automatically add up your columns for you. In this way, you can manipulate your target spending to achieve whatever spending goal you have for yourself.
  • You can give thought to your gift ideas in advance of hitting the stores and make a plan. This will cut down on impulse spending.

Some of these ideas might seem shocking and too analytical.  Where is the spirit of Christmas?  We should be giving from the heart, not from a sterile, pre-arranged list, right?  I disagree.  I don’t think anyone would suggest that the point of giving is to literally give until it (financially) hurts.  That’s crap.  And if you have friends or family who value your gifts more than they value you, I would highly recommend you question your involvement in that relationship.

For advanced list adherents, here’s an idea that has worked for me – gamifying.  Since I can refer to last year’s spreadsheet to see what I gave and how much I spent in doing so, I can set a target to decrease my spending by a certain amount.  This allows me the opportunity to think about what sorts of gifts I might want to give, and to determine what is the most cost-effective way to accomplish my gift giving.  I can also challenge myself and daughter to be creative and make gifts as a way to be more personal, while also saving some money.

This exercise has radically curbed my impulse spending.  Admittedly, I dislike shopping of any sort (except bookstores).  If I headed to the mall to buy gifts for my family, I would literally freeze in my tracks with dread and observe whatever previous ideas I had about buying gifts vanish into thin air.

The other benefit of this practice is that it plays right into my need and desire to simplify my life.  Anything I can do to bring awareness to any mindless or needless activity in my life is a win in my book.

What about you?  Do you make a list and check it twice?  What method has worked for you?  Share it below!

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